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Letter: Civil legal aid goes to heart of what rescue plan is intended for

Writing in The Boston Globe, MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker and Board Chair Mala Rafik make the case for using ARPA to fund civil legal aid initiatives to aid COVID recovery:

The editorial board wisely recognizes the opportunity that the American Rescue Plan Act creates for Massachusetts to aid low-income people who have suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially communities of color that are experiencing disproportionate harm to their housing stability, health, income, and security (“Beacon Hill’s big task: spending $5b,” Oct. 30).

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation seeks this federal funding for civil legal aid initiatives to deliver legal remedies to low-income people across the Commonwealth who continue to suffer from COVID-related problems. Each of the proposals addresses an urgent need by enhancing the robust, innovative network of legal aid organizations that already exists across Massachusetts.

We strongly urge the Senate to build on what the House has started and allocate American Rescue Plan funding for legal representation to low-income people facing eviction. We also hope the Senate will fully fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s proposals to expand civil legal aid in health care settings through medical and legal partnerships, to reduce educational inequities faced by low-income students in public schools, and to stabilize struggling families at risk of separation because of poverty.

Civil legal aid goes to the heart of what this federal funding is intended for and would have meaningful impacts, reducing the racial wealth divide, decreasing significant health disparities by race and income, keeping families intact, and preventing homelessness.

The Senate should put these funds to work where help is needed most to address the widespread and stubborn harms caused by COVID.

Lynne M. Parker, Executive director

Mala Rafik, Board chair

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation

Read online in The Boston Globe